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Disbelieving and Still Wondering

Luke 24: 36b-48 and Doubt by Marion Strobel

April 14th, 2024

By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche

 

Hello again and Happy Sunday on what is in our tradition the Third Sunday of Easter and spring is here what a gift! Wow, we made it!

I invite you now to join me in a spirit of prayer. God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

They are startled, frightened, terrified in fact. They are in doubt, probably worried, likely tired too. And then as the story goes, the figure that we later learn is something of Jesus, starts asking them questions. (Remember from last week how essential questions are? That Jesus asks way more questions than they answered.)

The disciples are stunned, and as the text says, “disbelieving and still wondering.”

Jesus asks them for something to eat.

To show them that it’s him or the essence of him or the thread of him, well enough of him that he can digest food anyway. So they give him fish that he eats.

And we read that those gathered had their minds opened.

And Jesus gives them a mini sermon! He speaks of fulfilling what he sees as his path and he speaks of repentance and forgiveness of sins and how they all get to see what will unfold from here. Jesus says they will be witnesses of what is to come.

As you know here at CUCC, we seek context and truth beyond a literal view, beyond the notion that this story is about proving that Jesus’ body survived and defied death, I think we miss a lot if we remain at that level.

So, I invite us today to enter into this text, into this story, passed onto us, as a multi-layered gift, with hidden gems included, right along with the biases and limitations of First Century human minds.

What are we meant to take away from this story? Like many in the treasure trove of our tradition, this story is odd and also important.

Why is Jesus surprised that they are scared? If a ghost asked me for some fish? And why appear like this now? Was the point to highlight the unfinished business he had with the disciples? One last chance to infuse them with his ideas, to ensure they will take them beyond the group? And when he told them that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations, starting right there in Jerusalem, was he trying to tell them that they should all start there with one another? Was that like First Century passive aggressive behavior? Like one of us proclaiming, repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in Jesus’ name to all nations, beginning with you know right here, in South Boulder… Was he talking to me?

Because it’s just a couple of chapters before this in the Book of Luke when they all gather around the table for a final meal and Jesus says out loud that he knows that one of them will betray their cause and that turns out to be true.

So maybe he wanted to remind them that his message wasn’t just for those “out there” but the chance to turn around, start over and forgive might need to happen right here. That the movement out there won’t work, if we don’t do it here.

Or was the point of his appearance and part of why we have this story to show the reaction of his friends? That we humans need to share food together, to eat together, before we can see things clearly and rightly? It’s after he eats that’s his eyes are open.

While my life has been rich with what I would describe as sacred encounters, I would have a hard time being open to a ghost demanding fish. And I confess that while I am optimistic and hopeful, I am also practical, skeptical and critical of surface presentations, so I need to enter this story from another angle.

Did you notice that most glorious line, “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering?” Now that I get.

Finding joy in the messiness of unraveled plans that totally fall apart. That I get. Living in joy or trying to, while holding doubt and disbelief. That I get. Trying to turn to wonder instead of wallowing in disappointment. That I get.

So what if these are the takeaways from this story for us in 2024? How do we care about and cultivate joy when it feels like there are just ghosts around us? And we aren’t sure what the next steps might be? And what if there is something unique and spiritually powerful that emerges within us and from us when we allow doubt and wonder sit together like friends in our hearts? What if that allows a kind of expansiveness? Because it’s being honest about where we are and also committing to stay open? Disbelief and Curiosity. Doubt and Wonder.

I do see a sort of flow in this story. Like a little recipe for our evolution deeper.

The disciples go from being frightened, from being startled to having open minds.

They go from doubting that things can possibly go on, to seeing themselves as witnesses and leaders of the next part of the movement.

I keep pondering all of the things in our world that could welcome some doubt and wonder together? What if they need one another? Wonder allows doubt to not give up and doubt allows wonder to not be too sure, to keep space for what else there might be.

It seems to me that many Christians have acted like doubt is a sin and maybe wonder too. But I believe these are gifts. In part because they can serve as mirrors. What is our doubt saying about us, reflecting back to us about what we care about, what we believe in? What does it say about the limitations we see or have created?

And what about our wonderings? What are they trying to tell us about what we need or long for?

In his book Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, Friedrich Nietzsche,  wrote “Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned.”

But what if we shouldn’t drown reason, deny doubt, or quiet wonder? What if these are guides along the journey? And what if this story is more about what we humans do when we feel all of this at the same time? What if, like we heard from the poet Marion Strobel, Doubt will water the ground… Rainbow the earth to the sky?” What if the spiritual journey, the Jesus path, isn’t about accepting a blindness, not about forbidding doubts, rather what if it’s accepting an ongoing willingness to see anew and to be opened again and again, a willingness to be moved when the Universe asks hard questions, a willingness to go from being frightened and terrified to having open minds, a willingness to go from doubting that things can possibly go on, to seeing ourselves as witnesses and leaders to the next part of this movement.

Beautiful people it is our practice here to tap into the wisdom that is surely in this room. How have you found joy when things haven’t gone as planned? How have you or do you hold doubt and wonder together? And to you who are a part of our worship on the livestream, you are invited to journal or discuss with those in your home or ponder on these same questions.

COMMUNAL REFLECTION 

Beloved of God, may we know joy, even in our doubts, let us wonder and be open. May it be so. Amen.

 

 

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